I messaged a group of my cat rescue friends the other day with a question: “With one word, how would you describe kitten season?” The responses were immediate: exhausting, bittersweet, overwhelming, frustrating, explosive, heartbreaking.
One of the greatest cat foster moms I know responded with the word “war.”
How could something as cute as kittens cause this kind of reaction from people who obviously love cats? It’s because every unspayed female cat in the northern hemisphere right now is either in heat, pregnant or just gave birth to a litter of two to six kittens. And they’ll do it again at least one more time, probably even twice, before the weather cools down. Unneutered male cats can find a female cat in heat up to 2 miles away.
There are many stats and figures to recite (one of the worst—half of all kittens born to feral or unowned mama cats die before their first birthday), but the upshot is that kitten season is real, and it’s the most difficult and dreaded time of year for animal rescue organizations.
Nature made cats very prolific, and anyone involved in cat rescue or sheltering knows that once the weather hits 70 degrees, the phone calls start pouring in about found litters of kittens that need homes. Those calls don’t stop until winter.
We can’t adopt our way out of this. We need all cats, owned and unowned, to be spayed or neutered.
Butte County is pretty lucky. We have three low-cost spay/neuter clinics: Paws of Oroville, Wags & Whiskers, and Butte Humane Society; two voucher programs to help with the cost of spay/neuter surgery (PawPrints Thrift Boutique and Paws of Chico); and a trap/spay-neuter/return volunteer group for feral and unowned cats called Neighborhood Cat Advocates. Every one of those organizations is maxed out right now and will be until October.
It’s fitting to close with this word to describe kitten season: preventable. If you love animals, spay and neuter those felines!
The author, a 2017 CN&R Local Hero, volunteers with and sits on the boards of Neighborhood Cat Advocates, Friends of the Chico Animal Shelter and Bidwell Wildlife Rehabilitation.
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